week41: mozart, alan baer; celtics

program: horn concertos 1-4; angel records, performed by dennis brain

program: horn concertos 1-4; angel records, performed by dennis brain

It is easy to see all that art can lose from such a constant obligation. Ease, to begin with, and that divine liberty so apparent in the work of Mozart. It is easier to understand why our works of art have a drawn, set look and why they collapse so suddenly. It is obvious why we have more journalists than creative writers, more boy-scouts of painting than Cézannes, and why sentimental tales or detective novels have taken the place of War and Peace or The Charterhouse of Parma. “”Albert Camus, Resistance, Rebellion and Death

 

i don’t know what to expect of a horn concerto. sure, as something in the background, fabric to guide the sail—the horn section is indispensable in the back of the pit —but as the main event? the opposition to an orchestra? the whole thing might become bloated and comical. take for example alan baer’s brilliant rendition on tuba of mendelssohn’s song without words, opus 109, even at only five minutes long it is already too long winded, too monotone…there’s something funny about how it kind of wilts at the end, the breathless finale...

The horn is not a very powerful instrument nor is it’s range of expression wide. Hence the reduced scale of these concertos as compared with the scale of Mozart’s piano concertos, and hence also his treatment of the orchestra as a collaborator rather than  opponent of the soloist. “” Mosco Carner Angel Records.

the outstanding example in my experience, of a duel between orchestra and soloist, has so far been sibelius’ violin concerto in d.minor—the allegro ma no tanto especially, is an experience overwhelms me. there the thinnest altitude the instrument can ascend is interchanged with the swarming buzz of a string-heavy orchestra. this buzzing effect found its supreme expression in sibelius’ tone-poems (tempest and nightride especially). quite the opposite is the case here. whatever i meant by ‘altitude’ in that violin concerto would translate here to something more terrestrial, perhaps even subterranean—skimming up to the surface ever so slightly. mozart’s first four horn concertos are a collaboration, of depth and of ease, between horn and orchestra—

Where the horn is most itself and reveals its true genius is in its capacity to sing and to sing with a warm rich tone. “” Mosco Carner Angel Records.

of depth and ease…i feel as if quoting someone else when i say those words; the weight of their significance is still on its way to me. the image they bring to mind is a that of a large and impressive schooner with its sails at full mast—the speed of which, viewed at mid distance, is immeasurable against an azure blue sky. this serenity of motion—in motion—and liberty of movement, were my first impressions of mozart's music. that spreading cloudless blue sky—not unlike the slow and diffused confidence of an empire within which his loftier aristocratic sensibilities could be staged. and the impressive schooner—not unlike the full attention of an educated public for whom the entire arsenal of artistic sensitivities can be put on show. it’s not this bourgeois public and the prussian empire with its exploitative capacities that i’m attending to but the type of artist that is concomitant with it…that is, the slow artist, unattending to any sociopolitically urgent idea of progress. who can afford to see the contemporary as coincidental—and refer all of posterity as contemporary. at any rate, this is the style in which mozart’s horn concertos express their art… being able to take one's time… to move forward but not towards. it is ease without flippancy—or as i’ve said: ease and depth. sung with a warm rich tone…

there are so many little causes, and then the larger more obvious ones——that one takes an artist seriously today is in accordance with their allegiance to a loose association of social justice issues. yes, it is necessary that an artist, whatever their medium, participates in the sociopolitical dialogue within which their relevance is contextualized—to maintain otherwise is to foster the kind of pseudo-lofty artistic posturing that eventually becomes as irrelevant to posterity as it is to the contemporary. it would be difficult to find a working artist today who didn’t already know that as an instinct. and the conditions of our social climate is incapable of creating a surplus of such politically minded artists—every single one is needed.

To compose ‘music for all’, music that would suit the prince and his valet, the lady and the burgher’s daughter, the Englishman and the Italian; to compose music that had to be both highly refined and highly popular, was a new and unprecedented task. ‘’Friedrich Blume, Mozart’s Style and Influence.

yet. a crucial distinction isn’t made often enough…that is, what kind of posture that myopic attention span fosters. to always be at the nose-end of the cockpit, the forefront of every breaking-(and broken)-news cycle. yes, the here-and-now is much more important than anywhere else—unless one begins to suffer from it. to cater only to its sensitivities. to anticipate every detail of its political preferences. to become a mere poultice for the secretion of the fluids that grease the grinding cogs (that, really is what is meant by ‘pop music’).—and there isn’t much wrong with that, in fact it’s needed. yet, there is more to the lifespan of a work of art, music especially, than the metabolic needs of the immediate audience. take for example that aforementioned ability to compose ‘music for all’. even if it’s not possible (some say it’s undesirable), are we not dwindling our stock of musicians who are at least interested in the attempt? to whom the prospect of such universal connections taunt their pipe dreams? and, to be sure, this scarcity is not a matter of talent, nor artistic ambition—both of those are abundant today as ever. the crucial missing element, however, has no serious endorsement from the industry of critics that enjoy a co-dependent, though parasitical, relationship with the music industry. that crucial element is, i believe, a sense of ease and a reclined posture at the onset of artistic inspiration. such a posture allows one to see better into ‘tors and distances’, and create more in the direction of ‘all’.

maybe that’s what an artist’s ‘genius’ is. that eternal thing that is ever quiet and roaming the pool of select individuals whose slow speed allows them to shoot farther shots into the future—or at least increase their interest in attempting…

Mozart’s genius still mourns and bewails the death of his pupil. It has found refuge with the inexhaustible Haydn, but not employment; through him it desires once again to be united with another. Through constant industry you shall receive Mozart’s spirit from Haydn’s hands. “” Count Ferdinand Walstein, Beethoven’s album October 29, 1792

it is noteworthy that the person being addressed there was beethoven, whose music was intended for the attention of a bourgeois public that enjoyed a certain imperial self-confidence (justifiable even by proximity to napoleon alone)—works such as the emperor concerto for example (which the toronto symphony orchestra is putting up next thursday).

as a last little word: ease doesn’t always look like a large and impressive schooner. there are many small skiffs that skim across the waters, whose bobbing and floating brings to mind every kind of leisure and velleity. chopin’s waltzes,  for example, is music for a portable sense of imperial confidence, no larger than an open smile and a firm handshake—

elsewhere. in the nba for example: what a clever little thing it is that one has the league to turn to. you see, there are some for whom there is too strong a sense of es muss sein…to whom every small and otherwise forgettable challenge has the ring of eternity to it. these types can benefit from every little reminder that chance is just as powerful a force as momentum. that the ‘favourites’ and the paramount wave of odds and probabilities can be displaced by the squeak of ‘perhaps’. take for example the ‘perhaps’ that the celtics might make it to the nba finals this year. that this really is the end of the lebron-cavs holocene (es muss sein, es muss sein!). what a splendid little thing it is that the league exists, and with the utmost seriousness too. with such clever little gimmicks one forgets briefly the of every kind of  ‘elsewhere’.

but really though: HOW ARE THE CELTICS UP 2-0?